1067-4136/04/3503- © 2004
Russian Journal of Ecology, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2004, pp. 144–149. Translated from Ekologiya, No. 3, 2004, pp. 172–178.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2004 by Stasyuk, Dobrovol’skii, Zalibekov, Saidov, Dobrynin.
Many researchers regard land desertiﬁcation as a
form of land degradation in arid, semiarid, and dry sub-
humid regions under the effects of human activities and
climate change (
Opustynivanie i degradatsiya pochv
1999), which leads to a sharp decrease in the biological
productivity of arid landscapes (down to the level char-
acteristic of deserts). The stages of this decrease are
reﬂected usually in (1) classes of ecosystem desertiﬁca-
tion: weak, moderate, strong, or very strong (Kapustin,
1999; Kuleshov, 1999); (2) ecological groups of soils:
fair, bad, or very bad ecological state (Saidov
2000); or (3) classes of land degradation with regard to
the processes limiting soil fertility (Pankova and
Novikova, 2000). The potential and actual directions of
degradation and desertiﬁcation are reﬂected in the
works devoted to cartographic evaluation of degrada-
tion changes in the soil cover of southern Russia (Kust,
1999; Andreeva, 2002).
Thus, the available aggregated estimation of land
degradation and desertiﬁcation is closer to the inven-
tory of these lands and provides a basis for the initial
stage of work on monitoring their state. However, mon-
itoring degradation of the soil cover on a permanent
basis is impossible without the criteria for evaluating its
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The assessment of soil cover degradation in north-
ern lowland Dagestan was based on analyzing changes
in the composition and structure of the soil cover.
Desertiﬁcation was regarded as the ultimate stage of
ecosystem degradation with the complete loss of bio-
logical productivity, and degradation was interpreted as
a stage-by-stage decrease in the biological productivity
of ecosystems (from weak to strong degradation). Soil
salinization and deﬂation are the main causes of these
processes in lowland Dagestan. For this reason, the
annual increment in the areas of meadow, typical, and
ancient hydromorphic solonchaks was taken as the
main index of the rate of soil cover degradation; and the
increment in the areas of barren, puffed, and hum-
mocky solonchaks, overgrazed sands, and technogenic
areas was taken as the index of desertiﬁcation (Stasyuk,
Northern lowland Dagestan includes two large
lithologic–geomorphological and geochemical regions:
the Terek River delta and the Terek–Kuma Lowland.
Since the 1930s, the soil and plant resources of this part
of Dagestan have been studied in detail, because the
attention of researchers has been always focused on the
problem of anthropogenic inﬂuences on the state of
soils and plant cover (Vinogradov and Tolchain, 1932;
Zonn, 1933, 1946, 1978; Banasevich
, 1934; Chi-
, 1962; Dobrovol’skii
, 1975, 1991;
Zalibekov, 1978; Saidov, 1978; Molchanov
Fedorov, 1993; Stasyuk, 2001).
The criteria for assessing soil cover degradation are
presented in Table 1. The development of these criteria
for the Terek River delta was based on processing large-
scale general and special soil maps made at different
times and deciphering satellite photographs of 2000.
The criteria for the Terek–Kuma Lowland were devel-
oped in the same way but using medium-scale maps.
They included the following parameters of the soil
cover: complexity, degree of contrast, salinity, saliniza-
tion, general degradation level, degradation rate, gen-
eral desertiﬁcation level, and desertiﬁcation rate.
Changes in their values reﬂected speciﬁc features,
directions, and rate of degradation changes in the soil
cover (Stasyuk, 2001).
In the dynamic hydromorphic landscape of the
Terek delta, general degradation level and degradation
rate are especially informative parameters, because the
initial highly productive hydromorphic deltaic ecosys-
Assessment of Soil Cover Degradation
and Desertification in Northern Lowland Dagestan
N. V. Stasyuk
, G. V. Dobrovol’skii
, Z. G. Zalibekov
, A. K. Saidov
, and D. V. Dobrynin
Faculty of Soil Science, Moscow State University, Vorob’evy gory, Moscow, 119899 Russia
Caspian Institute of Biological Resources, Dagestan Research Center, Russian Academy of Sciences,
ul. Gadzhieva 45, Makhachkala, 367025 Russia
Received January 23, 2003
—New principles of the assessment of soil cover degradation and desertiﬁcation, the scale and inten-
sity of destructive processes manifestation are determined.
: alluvial maritime and deltaic plains, soil cover, desertiﬁcation and degradation, zoning.